Jackman Scholars-in-Residence 2023

Basic overview: ‘Think Like A Scientist’ is a course designed to improve critical thinking and encourage independent thought for students. The program uses short, impactful talks on science topics to bring new information to the class.

The course started in 2019 in the UK prison system and has since expanded to different restrictive education settings (online and in person). The success of the course is based around the creation of a classroom dynamic that is accessible, inclusive, and relatable to students from all backgrounds.

The application: For the Jackman Scholars-in-Residence application, I seek excellent researchers to help shape the communication of course material and the building of a positive classroom dynamic in an Ontario prison setting. Researchers will study Canadian prison population and build an education framework to effectively communicate science to a diverse audience that may not have confidence in themselves or the system (due to stigma related to race, gender, sexual orientation, and/or social status).

International consortium of prison educators:

During the residence, we’ll work with a number of different groups to help build up an education framework. These external partners include:

– Tri-campus Sci Comm (Jodie Jenkinson, Marc Dryer, Shelly Wall, Phil Heron)

– University of Oslo (Grace Shephard)

– Spectrum First (adult education company specialising in working with autistic students) (Jamie Williams)

– Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program (Durham University Criminology) (Hannah King, Kate O’Brien)

– Berlin School of Public Engagement and Open Science (Mhairi Stewart)

– University of Manchester (Danielle George)

Relevant publication: Heron P.J. and Williams, J.A., 2022, Building confidence in STEM students through breaking (unseen) barriers, Geoscience Communication, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2022-16.

The goals for this month-long project work will be to:

  1. Identify potential key barriers that Canadian prison population may have to accessing education.
  2. Analyse the role of language in communication, understanding ‘plain speak’ templates in education.
  3. Create strategies to measure short- and long-term impact of the course within the confines of the restrictive prison setting.
  4. Role-play course content and group exercises.
  5. Identify potential areas where the course could expand to (parole partnerships, family care, youth centres, etc).

Awards for Think Like A Scientist:

  • EGU Public Engagement Award winner
  • Featured as part of Durham University’s Excellence Awards
  • Shortlisted for an Impact and Engagement Award at Durham University for Think Like A Scientist
  • British Geophysical Association outreach Award winner
  • N8 New Pioneer in recognition for the exceptional education performance of the Think Like A Scientist course
  • shortlisted for the STEM for Britain awards. In 2020, Think Like A Scientist was selected to be presented to MPs in Parliament due to its impact on students. This was a nationwide competition, with the final presentation at the Houses of Parliament. STEM for Britain is described as “major scientific poster competition and exhibition which has been held in Parliament since 1997, its aim is to give members of both Houses of Parliament an insight into the outstanding research work being undertaken in UK universities by early-career researchers.”


A selection of posters and feedback is shown here:
Student feedback for the course can be downloaded here:


Media attention for Think Like A Scientist: 

Northern Echo – 15th May 2019

The Conversation – What I learnt from teaching prisoners to think like scientists

BBC Newcastle – 15th May 2019 (51 minutes in, and 1 hour 50 minutes in)

Durham University website – 15th May 2019

Durham University News – 15th May 2019

Palatinate – 15th May 2019 

BBC Radio Tees – 15th May 2019

EGU Outreach Award – 8th April 2019

EGU GeoBlog

The Sun newspaper

Metro – 18th June 2019

Public talks: